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“In Lahore? You have to go at least once!”
Review of Cuckoo's Den

Cuckoo's Den
Ranked #9 of 293 Restaurants in Lahore
Price range: $0 - $20
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine
Dining options: Late Night, Breakfast, Dinner, Reservations
Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
54 reviews
45 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“In Lahore? You have to go at least once!”
Reviewed April 14, 2013

As a former resident of Lahore, and still a frequent visitor of the city, I can say that Cocoo's Nest (it is also called Cucoo's Nest, Cuckoo's Den and several other spellings and combinations, even on signs in the restaurant) is a must-go place - for the non-faint of heart.
Cucoo's anchored a resurgence of tourist life at one of the most interesting and historically significant areas of Lahore, sandwiched as it is between the Badshahi Mosque, the Lahore Fort and the Heera Mandi (the "DIamond Market" - Lahore's famous, and fading, red light district). Whereas Cucoo's once had the street pretty much to itself, hundreds of millions of rupees have gone into building a very nice, very lively Food Street complex. REAL Lahore it is not, but a pleasant walk it certainly is.
FIrst, the warnings: if you are really movement impaired, fortify yourself. You reach the dining levels of the restaurant ONLY by navigating an exceedingly narrow spiral staircase with steep marble steps. Narrow, as in two-people-can't-pass-at-the-same-time narrow. And, the dining levels are up 4 stories. To make it to the nest - the highest point (see below) - keep going for another floor and a half. I went this week, and my hip, healing from an operation a few months ago, is still bitterly complaining 5 days later after the arduous climb and the minimal padding on the chairs.
Second, they are not afraid of the mirchi (peppers) here, so if you are not a fire fan, ask them to dial the spices back.
Now, the delights!
FIrst, if you are able to make it to the top level of the restaurant (make a reservation), a wonder awaits you: You peer straight down into the Badshahi Mosque (with its minarets towering above), have a bird's eye view of the Lahore Fort, and can see the dome of the Darbar Saheb Gurdwara (Sikh temple) nearby. Go look off the back of the restaurant, and peer into Heera Mandi, and get a real slice of Lahori history. The top level really does take your breath away the first time you see it, and never fails to impress afterward.
Second, the food here is good - as in really good. You might see complaints here (mainly from Pakistanis) but my personal feeling is that the large variety of dishes here defy the normal Pakistani model of what a local restaurant serves and what the food should taste like. Some dishes (the Karahis, the excellent Handis) taste like you would expect. Other dishes are more Persian influenced and the variety of dishes is greater than at other places. Prices are in line for a "destination" restaurant, although cheap eats it is not. If you watch over the side (careful!) of the building, you might see part of your dinner ride up in a bucket from the tandoor on the street.
Third is the whole experience of going to this place. When you enter, prepare for an entire museum's worth of PG rated Hindu statuary, along with the owner's frank (but not explicit) paintings of the many "working girls" he has known over the years (Hussain-sahib's mother was a "diamond" in the Diamond Market as well). Once, a friend and I wondered by accident into his studio while seeking shami kebab and and naan, and saw hundreds of his paintings - an incredible experience, all told. Ancient carved wood bannisters surround the eating areas. And, if you are expecting a restaurant as clean as your grandmother's kitchen - forget that too unless granny was pretty liberated. But its OK - I am a scarred veteran of the Pakistani salmonella wars, and I have never gotten sick at Cucoo's, although I have at some of the nice hotels in town. Be bold!!! And remember there's always Cipro.....
Finally, there is the romance of being in a truly historic place. You walk down the street surrounded by sights and smells (and overloud music - the bane of restaurants everywhere) that are in the "that's what I came here for" category. Sure, there are gritty parts of the city, but Lahore has made Food Street into someplace you can come and relax - and really enjoy yourself. Top off your dinner with a post-prandial stroll through the gardens of the fort through the small door cut into the gate. Incredible.
So, break out your knee brace, take a Zantac and a couple of Tums and get ready for a night you will fondly remember for the rest of your life!

  • Visited April 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
4 Thank Robert J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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323 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Lucknow, India
Level Contributor
82 reviews
14 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 78 helpful votes
“Paradise in red light zone”
Reviewed March 29, 2013

Situated in Heera Mandi, the red light zone of lahore, behind the Badshahi Mosque, this food paradise is unique. Some unique artifacts suggest that there used to be a Hindu temple at this site - broken shivlings, headless Gods and Goddesses, motifs seen in walls of temples etc. Climb up the steep stairs and keep on climbing till you reach the moonlit roof and now you can rest your legs and order the best fish fry, tanduri chicken, biriyani, kebab and shrimal your money can buy! Finish your dinner with Phirni, a unique Punjabi sweet. Very courteous host and very tasty food. Flawless!!

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank surajitbh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Karachi
Level Contributor
95 reviews
40 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
“Food not so great, views awesome”
Reviewed March 19, 2013

For the price and the food quality, you are only really there for the views, which are indeed great, looking over the Badshahi Mosque and large parts of the old city of Lahore. The decoration, paintings depicting daily life in the area, especially those of the area's sex workers and support staff, are compelling and worthy of any art gallery.

The building itself has been meticulously restored (and often there is work ongoing), which is great to see. A bit of a tourist trap, but definitely worth one visit for the views and the art. Best to reserve a table with a good view well in advance.

Visited October 2012
Helpful?
Thank mansooree
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lahore
Level Contributor
11 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Andrun- The Walled City of Lahore”
Reviewed March 11, 2013

Well the food was nice, not my priority though. Located in the red light district, we walked past a hall adorned with paintings that were an homage to the working girls in the locale. The terrace has many buddha figurines and polytheistic symbolism native to South Asia. The evening tea here, is just fabulous. Book your dinner to avoid inconvinience.
You sit just adjacent to the Badshahi Mosque. On the other hand are the concrete canopies of this ancient urban jungle. A unique place to be in Lahore.

Visited July 2012
Helpful?
2 Thank Danishwar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Karachi, Pakistan
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Unique but basic”
Reviewed January 25, 2013

Unique muslim sterile environment. Basic food. A unique experience of going back in time. Friendly staff and good food.

Visited October 2012
Helpful?
Thank Javaid A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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